Did you know that before Carrie got an office in our house a few years ago that we would rent a room for her at a local motel during her writing season (March to August)? The hotel was just two blocks away from our home, but it was very quiet – something that was occasionally hard to find in a house full of boys! 😀
Should I keep my third grader who is struggling with reading and writing in Bigger Hearts, or place him in Beyond instead?
I’m a mother of 5. My oldest is doing Creation to Christ. The next two are going half-speed in Little Hearts. My 2 year keeps me hopping, but it is my 8 year old who’s struggling. We are 3 weeks into Bigger Hearts. He’s a struggling reader. He also struggles with writing. During copywork, he leaves out words, writes letters previously mastered incorrectly, copies wrong letters, or leaves letters out. It’s time-consuming for me to sit with him. He has to erase, correct, and it’s still sloppy! He’s not doing the cursive or poetry copywork. He struggles with the Bible verse copywork, the science copywork, and the vocabulary words and definitions. I’m also helping him write the science and history notebooking. Will he just grow into this, or should I have placed him in Beyond? He’s in third grade though, and I don’t want him to get further behind.
“Ms. Please Help My Stuggling Third Grader”
Dear “Ms. Please Help My Struggling Third Grader,”
Struggling in two of the 3R’s is a challenge when doing Bigger. In looking down the road, I would be concerned that even if he manages to get through Bigger, by the time he gets to Preparing on up, I worry that each year will feel like an overwhelming task for both you and your son. In looking at the fact that he isn’t doing the cursive or copywork of the poem right now, I am also assuming that you might not be getting to the written part of DITHR either? Or, perhaps your son is doing the Emerging Reader’s Set?
The copywork and reading assignments are important preparatory work to be successful in the next guide.
Honestly, the copywork and reading assignments are going to be very important right now. They will help him gain needed confidence and practice in his areas of difficulty. With the workload feeling too heavy in Bigger, it is likely that you will end up downsizing or skipping things that your son will actually need in order to be successful in the next guide.
I’d recommend shifting him down to Heart of Dakota‘s Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.
So, my recommendation would be to shift him down to Beyond. Due to his age, I would keep Rod and Staff English 2 to do daily along with Beyond. I would make sure that he writes a small portion on paper each day for English to practice getting comfortable writing on paper. Since he’s on the upper end of the age range for Beyond, I would also be sure that he completes several lines of copywork of the poem from Beyond each day. He can strive to copy the entire poem by the end of the week.
I’d be sure to do either the Emerging Reader’s Set or DITHR each day.
Then, I would be sure to daily do the Emerging Reader’s Set (if that is where he is) or do DITHR. With DITHR, when you get there, you can do some writing for him at first. You can also write on a markerboard for him to copy on his paper later. Eventually, move toward having him do more of the writing in DITHR in preparation for Bigger.
Give your third grader the gift of time to mature into needed skills.
With boys, it is especially important to give them every chance to mature into the needed fine motor skills. I taught third grade for many years in the public school, and it was easy to tell which kiddos needed a bit more time to mature (and most often they were boys). So, give your little honey the gift of time to grow into needed skills. Don’t worry about adding to the science, as he will still get twice weekly science lessons in Beyond. Just worry about the 3R’s right now and gently ease him into those needed skills daily, along with all of the other excellent skills found within Beyond. Doing all of Beyond well, rather than randomly skipping things or downsizing within Bigger will help your son be more prepared for the next guide the following year.
Why does Heart of Dakota use different writing programs each year?
I just wanted to ask why Heart of Dakota uses different writing programs each year? I like all that I see in Heart of Dakota, and I’m quite a researcher! However, I was wondering what the benefits are of using different sources from one year to another? Write With the Best, IEW, The Exciting World of Creative Writing – they are all so different. I just wondered why one writing program isn’t chosen to continue with year after year? Thanks in advance for answering my question.
“Ms. Wondering Why Use Different Writing Programs”
Dear “Ms. Wondering Why Use Different Writing Programs,”
You are correct! We have purposely chosen to use different writing programs from year to year in Heart of Dakota. Writing has a definite progression of skills and certain types of writing that are easier to accomplish than others. So, we keep this in mind as we move through the guides. Various writing programs also have different strengths and appeal to different types of learners, which is something that should not be overlooked. Can you imagine if all of our great writers had been exposed to only one particular writing “program” that they all were required to use year after year? Would it produce as much variety as we see in great writing, or could it instead feel stifling to some writers?
Writing is a highly creative and personal process.
It’s important to remember that writing is a highly creative and personal process. While it does have certain skills that need to be taught, it also requires much more individual expression and output. Thus, it requires a different approach than subjects like math or English, where a certain set of skills are taught and an exacting output is required. In math and English it makes perfect sense to stay the course with a single program. Yet, in writing, it is true that “variety is the spice of life” (and the spice of writing)!
Different writing programs have different strengths.
Having the freedom to choose among the different writing programs available, let’s take advantage of the strengths within each program. Students then can be exposed to a variety of writing experiences and writing approaches. Yet, students can still maintain solid skill progression when formal writing programs are integrated with the writing across the curriculum as scheduled in the HOD guide. Our approach also allows us to be better balanced in seeing the writing program as just one piece of the HOD puzzle each year. This helps us create a puzzle that is put together piece by piece, year by year, so one cohesive picture emerges.
The result? Each student’s own beautifully crafted puzzle. Not the same exact puzzle as another student’s puzzle. But rather a uniquely personally crafted puzzle, with different pieces taken from different writing programs that when put together, create one original masterpiece. Then, a writer is born. So, let us start putting together the pieces of the puzzle to make some new ‘masterpieces’ today!
Each day I get to help families with placement in Heart of Dakota. I’ve enjoyed doing this for over a decade and consider it an incredible blessing and a privilege! I see a trend for many students who come to Heart of Dakota from other curricula. They are often placing lower on the placement chart in writing, spelling, and grammar. They have done much work orally. But, now that they are getting older, parents are looking ahead to middle school and high school work. They are concerned their students won’t be ready.
Impact on Spelling and Editing Skills
Since much of the work was done orally by students, their spelling has also been impacted. They just have not written enough to form the habit of spelling well. Likewise, they have done little to no editing of their own written work. The parent has not been editing either, as students have been doing their work orally. This leaves the parent with all of the responsibility of editing a larger volume of work, as students should be writing more as they mature. So, a responsibility that should be shared or shifting more to the student has landed soundly in the parent’s lap! Not what we busy homeschool moms need, right?!?
How Reading Aloud Everything Can Impact Students’ Writing
When older students are combined with much younger students and therefore everything must be read aloud either by them or the parent, their writing is impacted. Seeing the text on the page as you read in your head fixes proper spelling in your mind. This in turn helps you have a better chance of spelling words correctly in your own writing. Older students who have not read independently often do not write well independently for this reason. This is why Charlotte Mason advocated students at the age of 9 be responsible for their reading. Can you think back to yourself as a 5th grade student? I know, for some of us, this is going waaaaaay back. But, thinking back, how would your teachers reading everything aloud to you have impacted your writing? Probably significantly, and not in a way you’d like.
The good news – Heart of Dakota’s plans are designed to help students improve their writing!
Students incrementally become stronger writers using Heart of Dakota’s plans! Simply following the daily plans and using the writing helps in the appendix of each guide helps students gradually improve. However, what do you do if you are coming to Heart of Dakota later? Or, what if you did Heart of Dakota from the start, but you altered the plans so work was done orally instead? Well, take heart! Students can and will improve given time, as they create new writing habits. So, here are 5 tips to help your children strengthen their writing skills and be on the road to writing well!
#1: Follow Heart of Dakota’s plans by requiring all writing in assignments to be completed.
Start small if need be! Students assigned to write 5- 7 sentences for a written narration should start with 5 good short sentences. Quality trumps quantity to begin with! Students should use proper spelling in all copywork, written narrations, and formal writing assignments. However, editing writing in all subject areas helps as well. So, if you see a word spelled wrong in science, for example, try to help them fix it. Though work need not be perfect, spelling is something to try to edit in all subject areas as much as possible.
#2: Use the editing tips in the back of the guide.
Take time to edit to help your student become a strong writer! Working through the list following the directions in the Appendix will help students form good editing habits. The responsibility for editing will gradually shift more from you to your students. As this happens, your kiddos will learn writing carefully from the start equals less editing at the end. Keep in mind, students write one draft for written narrations. A parent should not require a student to rewrite an entire written narration in a second or third draft. Rather, students edit their first draft to the best of their ability with a parent offering help and encouragement as needed.
#3: Do dictation every day you homeschool.
Heart of Dakota’s plans assign dictation 3 out of 4 days a week. Struggling spellers can see more improvement in their spelling by doing dictation daily. Be sure to follow the directions at the start of dictation carefully, as they follow Charlotte Mason’s tried and true methods. For one of my sons who struggled with spelling, we did dictation daily. It took his scores on standardized testing from below average to above average. He didn’t become a stellar speller overnight, mind you! But, slow and steady consistent dictation and editing helped him improve greatly!
#4: Students should read when assigned to do so.
Carrie wrote Heart of Dakota’s plans to include living books. She chose these books specifically with reading roles in mind. Students placed properly in a guide can independently read what has been assigned or quickly grow into the reading. Carrie didn’t forget parents’ love to read aloud either! Parents always get to enjoy reading something too. I love the books I get to read aloud with my sons! But, I also love my sons enjoying reading on their own too! Keep in mind not all living books function best as read alouds. Likewise, the reading assignments vary in length. Some readings are long! Students are meant to read them more quickly independently. As Charlotte Mason advocated children 9 years or older begin doing their own reading, Carrie chose books with this in mind.
#5: Teach students to shrink their writing to fit on notebook paper.
Students who are new to writing often write quite large. They also often do not know how to write with proper spacing. Writing on lined notebook paper for subjects such as R & S English, science questions, Common Place book entries, etc. can be a challenge. You can help by pointing out the left and right margins. Likewise, you can draw their attention to spacing between words. Helping them visualize a dotted line within the wide line also helps with writing lower case letters. Students can skip lines, as this helps them better see how to edit their written work. They can also experiment with various pencils and grippers, until they find what they like best. Parents can jot editing notes in the margin for easy reference.
I use these tips with my own sons each day! I have seen such improvement in writing, spelling, and grammar through the years with Heart of Dakota. My job as editor decreases and shifts to my sons’ job as they mature. This is what helps them be able to write well without me! And that, in my mind, is the final goal for writing! Hope this helps as you encourage your own kiddos to become the best writers they can be!
P.S. For more on written narrations as a form of assessment, click here!
P.S.S. For more on dictation as a way to teach spelling to struggling students, click here!